Panagiota Kontoléon • 14 May 2019

More and more people talk about the importance of self-care, especially in times of distress that impair people’s lives.

Having started a journey of a graduate degree 3 years ago during which my distress levels skyrocketed, lol, I got really interested in the concept of self-care.  One of the first things we were taught in the program was to cater to our needs first before we are able to cater to our clients’ needs; i.e., to practice self-care.  After all, we can only take our clients as far as we have taken ourselves!  Consequently, self-care is very important, but why especially in times of distress and how distress impairs people’s lives?

Let’s see… Distress is a natural state that cannot be avoided; therefore we all have some kind of distress here and there due to challenges we all face.  But, lack of adequate attention to distress could lead to impairment in one or more areas of our life.  If distress becomes chronic, then illnesses step foot in our doorstep.  Therefore, distress and impairment cannot be viewed dichotomously; distress and impairment are not just fully present or totally absent.  They each may develop and progress if left unattended.

It is evident then that paying attention to distress and taking action sooner rather than later, is imperative.  Action can be taken in two ways:

  1. Do something to tackle our challenge that elicits our distress, instead of feeling helpless; and
  2. Do something to tackle our distress and this is where self-care comes into the picture.

The way I survived these 3 challenging years of my life was to first do something about my challenges.  I was doing my school work while taking a day at a time instead of panicking, and also taking care of myself.  I did the latter by taking 2 hours a day 2-3 times a week to do what I love: swimming training!  Being in the water was my battery charger and even though I was tempted to stop training especially this last year as I had to work 10 hours a day between classes, practicum and thesis, I did not succumb to the temptation.  Self-care is what I call “positive behavior” and a choice.

In my practicum I see more and more people who deal with their challenges with negative behaviors, or as we call them maladaptive coping mechanisms.  Some examples include self-medicating with various substances (alcohol and drugs) and food, and seeking emotional support or gratification from other people, thus putting their power outside themselves and impairing their lives day by day.  Choosing self-care and acting on it kept me sane and healthy during these trying times. :)